It’s interesting to reflect on when technical advances become the new normal in my own life.

There have been quite a few of these moments for me this year. So here’s a highly subjective run down of the new normal …

Phone payments

I’m a bit late to the party, but I am finally knowing the pleasure of buzzing my phone on a contactless payment device. No need to get wallet out and there’s an instant digital receipt. The haptic buzz feels like a key part of the experience somehow, which is notable in it’s own right.

Voice-controlled assistants

Alexa, Siri, “hey Google” … These have been around for a few years but it is now totally mainstream to see devices designed for the home. I’ve not got a custom device yet though I’ll probably give in. However our new SkyQ remote control has a voice input button and I’ve started to rely on that, commanding “Madam Secretary!”. Either way I can see the rise of voice is shaping our interface with technology. Jisc ran a challenge to imagine a screen-free digital learning environment, that will be interesting to follow!

Drones

Last Xmas we bought my eldest a drone. In November I won a drone. Doctor Who had an episode about delivery drones. And just before Xmas Gatwick was frozen because of a rogue drone. I’m just trying not to think of drone warfare because that’s terrifying.

Facial recognition

Facebook and Google have got pretty good at this. My mum started to trust Google photos earlier than me, and it even seems to manage the transition from baby to boy. I also have facial recognition as an authentication option on my phone now.

Fingerprints

I have a terrible memory for numbers. My phone has a fingerprint sensor and finally I can access my online banking! My son pays for his secondary school food with a thumbprint. When I travelled to the US there was a self-service security step with four fingerprints alongside photo and passport scan. For me, 2018 is the year this became normal.

So … should we be afraid?

So many of these technical milestones are surveillance technology. It’s the stuff of dark sci-fi. Privacy is dead. This short article by Tobias Stone Your Privacy is Over makes the point. My phone is a Chinese-made Huawei. I should be worried.

Perhaps I’m complacent, from my privileged viewpoint, but in the long view of history I wonder if privacy is a blip. In many pre-industrial human societies we lived in smaller groups with less potential for anonymity and clean slates. Our histories caught up with us. I think of George Eliot and Jane Austen when the truth about the handsome stranger eventually loops round via six degrees of separation. I don’t trust governments, or corporations, so I should be worried, but I don’t feel it, yet.

If I am totally honest with myself I am also numb to other fears. Climate change should terrify me, but I think I have innoculated myself from the panic I should be feeling. I am not in denial: I am just not fearful in an emotional sense. So perhaps I feel the same numbness to privacy concerns.

Honourable Mentions

I had a smartwatch a few years ago but have noticed that they have become much more common this year, also Fitbit type bands are everywhere now.

The Segway Ninebot I tried in August. Only knee high, it felt intuitive to control and I had my hands free. Not normal for me yet but I am excited to see where that technology goes.

Ditto I am excited about the future of electric and autonomous vehicles. I love that there was a Tesla sent into space. Not part of my life yet though so it doesn’t make this list.

For me, this has been the year for phone payments, voice control, drones, facial recognition and fingerprints becoming part of my everyday life.

What technologies became normal to you in 2018? And how do you feel about it?

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